Your Guide To The Subversive Basics Trend (& Why We Love The Edgy Pieces)

TikTok may be controversial in many aspects, but there's no denying its highly intuitive algorithm has been the driving force behind the meteoric rise of new fashion trends and unheard-of aesthetics. If you can't afford to go to fashion runway shows to keep abreast of the latest trends and get a feel of what's next in fashion, TikTok is where you'll find all the inspiration you need for your next #OOTD ideas. There are many microtrends that have been popularized by TikTok, but one particular trend that broke the Internet in 2021, survived the ruthless trend cycle in 2022, and will continue to be carried into 2023 — is subversive basics.

According to fashion forecaster Agustina Panzoni who coined the term, this style is "all about basics that rebel up to the point of losing their utility." In other words, subversive basics is a futuristic, understatedly seductive take on normcore. Think: a little black dress with daring cut-outs, a nipple-baring bodysuit, or a midriff white tee with slashes across the bust and knit gloves. The components that are essential to the perception of this look are body-conscious fit, stretchy fabric, geometric cut-outs, tangled straps and strings, lack of symmetry, and sheer fabric. Overall, subversive basics are great for experimenting with next-level looks, but it can be a risky dressing style. Below, check out our guide to the subversive basics trend and why it's not going anywhere anytime soon. 

You can DIY subversive basics

Part of the reason why subversive basics hit a fever pitch among the young at heart is that the reimagining and DIY styling possibilities are endless. One easy way to DIY a subversive basics piece is to grab a pair of unused nylon tights and cut the crotch and the foot into a body-fitting, midriff-baring crop top for a sculptured look (check out the TikTok tutorial). You can also cut big holes in your old rib-knit top to turn it into an open-back top. Or, you can cut out a knitted dress and turn its middle into a sophisticated wrap-around.

Subversive basics don't have a gender

Another thing that makes subversive basics unique is that it's not specific to a certain gender. In other words, anyone who dares to bare is welcome to embrace the trend. The beauty of subversive basics is that the shapes and form-fitting style can be altered to match every body type and gender. There's also so much freedom when it comes to layering and having fun with different shapes and designs.

Subversive basics were all the rage on the runway

Not only have subversive basics been making the rounds on TikTok, these edgy summer essentials have also been having a moment on the runway. KNWLS's Glimmer 2023 collection nailed the Y2K aesthetic with mesh tops, halter-neck leotards, cut-out dresses with tiny straps, and laced trousers. 

For a look that strikes the perfect balance between street style, tropical get-away, and lingerie, swimwear brand Isa Boulder's Summer 2022 runway collection ticks all the boxes with its sheer, handcrafted woven tube top and sleeve sets and midi-dresses. 

You have more ownership over what you wear

Subversive basics give the wearer more control over their dressing so they can create the most individualistic look they can think of using intricate designs and materials. If you're going for a nude look, you can sport a sheer bodysuit or layer it with other basics to create a more conservative, modest outfit that doesn't border on indecent exposure. To play on the texture, you can combine one reworked piece with another of a different fabric — like wearing a mesh sheer top over a polyester tube top or throwing a cropped shrug over a strappy bra or camisole.

It's a tool of escapism

Designer Clarissa Larrazabal praises the subversive basics frenzy for creating new avenues for exploring sensuality via a less sexually objectifying angle. Pointing out that cutouts and sheer layering facilitate a new approach to portraying feminine sensuality, Larrazabal told The Zoe Report, "A piece made of sheer fabrics and cutouts is no longer considered vulgar, but rather subversive."

Corseting items make a great addition to subversive basics wardrobe

It's hard to look at subversive basics without thinking about corseting – one of the most viral fashion trends on TikTok in 2022. Like subversive basics, corseting is also a sensual take on minimal, effortless dressing. Think: a lace-up bodice with buckle strap, a tulle-bustier top, or a fitting dress with corseting details. Although corseting is not as broad as subversive basics, sheer or cut-out corseting items are a great place to start if you want to dip your toe in the subversive pool without baring your nipples.

Avant basic is the opposite of subversive basics

If you want to learn how to spot a style that falls into the subversive basics category, you should first learn what is not considered subversive. The perfect opposite of subversive basics is avant basics. Going viral in 2021, this unabashedly cheerful aesthetic features vibrant colors, clashing patterns, and psychedelic designs. Think cow-printed cardigans, optical-patterned scarves, or flared pants filled with asymmetrical graphic lines.

Expression-wise, avant basics gear toward maximalism in a surreal way. Although avant basic also revolves around basic pieces, it doesn't encourage rebels of any sort. Unlike subversive basics, you won't find any intentionally disruptive or strikingly sensual elements with this style.